August 31, 2000
11:41 AM   Subscribe

Pigs seem to be featured a lot in medical news as of late. Whether it be cloning them or using their cells to repair nerve damage in mice, the ultimate goal of all this is to transplant these organs and cells into people who need them. Personally I have no problem with this but I wonder if there are any religious objections to this sort of thing. I know Muslims and Jews can't eat pork, but if they needed a liver transplant would they be able to take it from a pig or would they have to refuse and risk death?
posted by Nyarlathotep (8 comments total)
Oh, come on, Christians aren't supposed to kill, but they always fight wars. I don't care what religion you are, or how holy you claim to be, if your liver fails you'll be begging doctors to slap that swine organ in you.

There are no believers in fox holes. Or something.
posted by Doug at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2000

Well, obviously even some Christians, Christian Scientists and some others, object to something as simple and established as blood transfusions.

I've talked with a lot of otherwise intelligent people who get the willies thinking about having someone else's organs in them -- or theirs in someone else. (Me? I'm dead. Whatever form I'm in then, I sure don't need them.) So I think Nyar has a definite point; lots of people are going to have a very deep-seated root reaction to this.

The irony is that so many of us have so little problem with, say, the various deracinated animal products in shampoo ... but then again, few of us really know what's in shampoo. I suspect a lot of people won't even ask where their new liver came from.q
posted by dhartung at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2000

What would be worse is PETA trampling around hospitals and clinics protesting the use of the animals, and themselves turning more rabid than Pro-lifers at an abortion clinic. Oh, the horror.

Personally I wouldn't ever let them put a pig liver in me. I'd rather die. Animal<->human transplants is, in my book, about as nasty as bestiality. I require all animals to be fully cooked before they enter my body!
posted by karaleah at 3:14 PM on August 31, 2000

Doug: you missed the point. The question he's posing isn't what people would do in the situation, but what would religious organizations claim you're supposed to do in the situation? Sure, christians kill, but the church still teaches against it. There is an established line between what you think is right and your actions. Many people would do things that go against their beleifs in certain situations.
posted by tomorama at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2000

According to a friend of mine who is well versed in Jewish law, health and safety override all laws. His way of putting it was:

"Health and safety -- despite the "Frisco Kid" -- override all observance rules; if pursued by people who would do you harm you *should* ride on Shabbos."

This came up in the context of the fact that the new-born premature son of some mutual friends had his briss delayed for health reasons. Traditionally, briss should occur on the 8th day after birth, but in this case it wasn't yet safe, and the Rabbi never even considered doing it on that day.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:36 PM on August 31, 2000

if they're gonna be cloning pigs livers for transplants then I guess they can clone a horse liver or something for those with an objection ;-)

Might bring new light to "healthy as a horse"?
posted by justnobody at 2:35 AM on September 2, 2000

I know that the comment about the horse liver was intended to be facetious, but there's actually a very legitimate reason why they are concentrating on swine for livers: pigs are omnivorous. In the wild, though they don't actively hunt, boars will eat carrion if they can get it. There's nothing you can eat which a pig cannot also eat and prosper on; its liver has a full complement of enzymes for breaking down both animal and vegetable matter. This is not true for any other domesticated animal (and few other animals of any kind).

For instance, chocolate is deadly poisonous to dogs; a quarter pound of dark chocolate is enough to kill a German Shepherd because it's missing an enzyme in the breakdown chain for one of the things present in it, and an intermediate product builds up to lethal level.

As regards to horses, there are two problems: they're herbivores and thus missing way too many enzymes, and the liver is much too large. The other advantage of pigs is that their organs are about the same size as humans.

In fact, the primates won't qualify either; most are not omnivorous and those that are (such as chimps) are too small and their organs aren't the right size. Gorillas are large enough, but gorillas are herbivorous. Primates are also far harder to breed in captivity than pigs are; we've been raising pigs in quantity with no difficulty for centuries and know all about them.

Omnivores are actually fairly rare; most animals specialize on being herbivores or carnivores, and thus their livers are not as capable as those of humans and swine (and bears, the other prominent example of omnivory -- but who wants to raise bears in captivity?).

posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:13 AM on September 2, 2000

Anything that is otherwise haram (religiously forbidden for a Muslim) can be used as halal (allowed) for health/medical reasons. This is rather strongly repeated in Quran (the religious book, words of Allah) and in Hadiths (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammed).

For example, Muslim men are not allowed to wear silk (expressive of greater desire for earthly life and excesses), but the Prophet allowed two men to wear silk because they had skin disease and silk clothes comforted them.

Then again, since almost all of Islamic rules are in Arabic, a language foreign to 76% of Muslims, many a local religious leaders in various parts of the world spew out false religious rulings to mostly ignorant locals.

posted by tamim at 8:19 PM on September 3, 2000

« Older One part "a long time ago", another part "a galaxy...   |   This Salon article on the state of web sites aimed... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments